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Life of Walter Quintin Gresham, 1832-1895 (Volume 2) online

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Emperor of Austria, July i, 1889, as an arbitrator, upheld
the pretensions of Great Britain, and, among other things,
held that Nicaragua should pay the Mosquito chief $5,000
per annum for a term of years. The United States was not
a party to this arbitration, and was not even consulted in
advance as to its terms and the questions the arbitrator
would pass on. Nicaragua refused to abide by the award
and appealed to the United States.

With all Mr. Blaine's bluster he accomplished no re-
sults. Thomas F. Bayard was familiar with every phase
of the subject. Secretary of State Gresham had had a touch
of it in President Arthur's administration. Mr. Bayard
pressed the English government direct, while Mr. Gresham
negotiated with Sir Julian Pauncefote.

To Mr. Bayard the Secretary of State wrote June 7,
1894, as follows:

I have read many times your admirable instructions of Novem-
ber 23, 1888, to Mr. Phelps, American minister to London, and
have said to the President that I think this administration should
stand by it. You very correctly stated in your instructions to
Mr. Phelps that when the Indians accepted the provisions made
for them in the treaty of [Mandgua], direct relations were estab-
lished between them and Nicaragua, and Great Britain ceased to
be their protector or guardian.

To Sir Julian, Secretary Gresham argued, "There can-
not be two sovereignties in the same territory." When Sir
Julian said, as both Secretary of State Gresham and Ambas-
sador Bayard anticipated he would, that under the treaty
Great Britain was bound to see that Nicaragua did not op-
press the Mosquito Indians, Secretary Gresham answered,
"We will see that she does not." Nicaragua, on our demand,
promptly paid the sum she was in arrears to the Indians
under the award of the Austrian Emperor, and Great Brit-
ain withdrew all her pretensions to sovereignty in Nica-
ragua. More was accomplished by the conferences with


the British ambassador and the Nicaraguan minister than
by correspondence.

No sooner had Great Britain withdrawn her claim to
sovereignty in Nicaragua than a revolution, in which Am-
ericans and British subjects were the leaders, broke out
in the Mosquito strip against the Nicaraguan authority.
These Americans and British subjects were expelled from
the Nicaraguan territory without any form of trial, and
without giving them time to make necessary preparations
for such a journey.

On remonstrances by our government, the Americans were
permitted to return and continue unmolested in the exercise
of their usual business, but not so with the British subjects.
Great Britain remonstrated and demanded an indemnity.

I shall let Senor Romero, the Mexican minister to the
United States, conclude this incident in a paper he pre-
pared for publication a short time after my husband's
death, but which w^as not published, possibly because Mr.
Romero concluded it contained too many State secrets.

One day in April, 1895, when I went to see Mr. Gresham, I
found him very busy at his office consulting the records of the
Department about the application of the Monroe Doctrine in the
Corinto or Nicaragua affair

Nicaragua refused to pay the indemnity, and finally Great
Britain sent, on February 26, 1895, an ultimatum through the
commander of one of her men-of-war to the Nicaraguan govern-
ment, demanding an apology, an immediate payment of 15,500
pounds sterling as a preliminary indemnity, and a further indem-
nity to be fixed b}- arbitration excluding all American govern-
ments, and threatening to take possession of some territory if
the apology and payments were refused. I was under the impres-
sion that Great Britain had previously infonued the United States
that they intended to enforce the payment in that way, and not
seize Nicaraguan teiYitory for j^ennanent keeping, and that she
obtained in either a direct or an indirect way the assurance that
the United States would not interfere, because otherwise I do not
think Great Britain would have dared to occupy Corinto. My



reasons for thinking so were corroborated by what took place about
the British Guiana boundary dispute, but I was afterwards assured
by well-informed sources that there was no previous accord then.

When Nicaragua received the British ultimatum she applied
at once to the United States for protection, because all the Central
Republics consider the United States as their natural protector,
and they think that this government will come to their rescue
in their complications with foreign countries, no matter what may
be the nature of the same, and in this belief they have been sup-
ported by the opinion of Mr. James G. Blaine, who, while Secre-
tary of State of the United States during President Garfield's ad-
ministration, stated that this country is the natural protector
of all the American republics.

Mr. Gresham was studying in the records of the Department
the action of the government in similar questions. When I
came into his office, he seemed glad to see me and he asked for
my opinion on the subject and what the United States had done
in the case of Mexico when the French Emperor sent an army to
interfere in our political affairs, and take possession of the country.

When I reminded him that the three allied powers, France,
England, and Spain, had signed in London on October 31, 1861,
a treaty of alliance to intervene in Mexico, and had asked the.
United States to join them, and that this country had refused
that invitation, recognizing the right of the allies to make war
upon Mexico, Mr. Gresham very properly remarked that Mr.
Seward's answer would very likely have been quite different had
this country been at that time at peace. He further said that
the Nicaragua incident was not a case in which the United States
could be asked to interfere, as the Monroe Doctrine was not
affected by it, since Great Britain did not intend to make any
permanent acquisitions of territory, but only tried to enforce a
claim against another country.

He thought that Nicaragua being an independent nation
Great Britain had a perfect right to enforce that claim upon her,
and even seize, for the time being, a portion of her territory in
case of non-payment. From the records of the Department of
State it appeared that the United States government acted in a
similar way toward Paraguay in 1858 under Mr. Buchanan's
administration, when, having a claim against that country which


Paraguay would not settle,. they sent an armed expedition to en-
force it; and Mr. Gresham said that they could not deny to Great
Britain the exercise of the same right under similar circumstances.

In Mr. Gresham's opinion, Nicaragua had done a wrong in
expelling from her territory without any trial a British subject,
and Great Britain had a right to demand satisfaction on that
offense, going to the extent of making war; and the United States
had no right to interfere under the Monroe Doctrine as long as
Great Britain did not attempt to make a permanent acquisition
of territory.

Mr. Gresham very properly said that Nicaragua as an inde-
pendent country must accept the duties and responsibilities of
such, and that if by her wrong-doing she offends other powers,
she cannot ask the United States to take up her quarrels originat-
ing from acts that she had done against the opinion and advice
of the United States.

The United States did not interfere then in that case, and in
consequence of this the British men-of-war landed some marines
at the port of Corinto and took possession of the town on April 2 7 ,
1895, the Nicaraguan garrison having previously been withdrawn
to the interior.

To me, Mr. Gresham's position in the case was unassailable,
although that incident after the Hawaiian question was perhaps
the reason for which he was more or less abused by his political
opponents. It would have made him very popular if he had
tried to bully Great Britain by bringing the Monroe Doctrine
in the case, but as a fair man and a man of principle he could not
do so, and so he preferred to do right rather than to gain popularity
at the expense of justice. With a view to justifying this construc-
tion of the Monroe Doctrine, Profgssorj phn B. Moor e of Columbia
College published a pamphlet expounding the Monroe Doctrine.

During the time Secretary Gresham was probing the
Venezuelan question to the bottom, the situation in the
Cuban revolt against Spain had become acute. I am not
denying that many of our citizens were clandestinely vio-
lating our neutrality laws in aiding the Cuban insurgents.
Every precaution was taken by the Cleveland administra-
tion to prevent the shipment of arms and supplies to Cuba,




but with our long coast line it was easy for men who had
been trained by Great Britain in running the blockade of
our Southern ports during our Civil War, to get through
the blockade poor old Spain was endeavoring to maintain
around the island of Cuba. W. C. Whitney was abroad at
this time, and was writing and telegraphing information that
was useful but did not go into the archives of the State De-
partment. I do not think any one will question the fact
that Walter Q. Gresham, long before he entered the State
Department, was familiar with every fact and principle
suggested and advanced for the settlement of the claims
against Great Britain for the depredations on American
commerce by the Confederate cruisers A labania and Florida,
under the Treaty of Washington, — -"the most enduring
monument to General Grant's fame."

Acting on information furnished by Grossman & Bro-
ther, Secretary of State Gresham, on March 14, 1895, sent
to Harris Taylor, the American minister at Madrid, the
following dispatch:

This Department is informed that on the 8th instant, the
United States mail steamship Alliance, on her homeward voy-
age from Colon to New York, when six miles from the coast of
Cuba, ofE Cape Maysi, was repeatedly fired on by a Spanish gun-
boat with solid shot, which fortunately fell short. The Wind-
ward Passage, where this occurred, is the natural and usual
highway for vessels plying between ports of the United States
and the Caribbean Sea. Through it several regular lines of Am-
erican mail and commercial steamers pass weekly within sight
of Cape Maysi. They are well known and their voyage embraces
no Cuban port of call. Forcible interference with them cannot be
claimed as a belligerent act, whether they pass within three miles
of the Cuban coast or not, and can under no circumstances be tol-
erated when no state of war exists. This government will expect
prompt disavowal of the unauthorized act and due expression of
regret on the part of Spain, and it must insist that immediate
and positive orders be given to Spanish naval commanders not
to interfere with legitimate American commerce passing through


that channel, and prohibiting all acts wantonly imperiling life
and property lawfully under the flag of the United States. You
will communicate this to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and urge
the importance of a prompt and satisfactory response.

The publication of this dispatch greatly perturbed Mr.
Cleveland, but brought on the next day an answer from
Mr. Taylor that the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs
would make a specific and formal reply the moment the facts
could be obtained from Cuba by telegram; also it brought
a cablegram of congratulation from William C. Whitney.

The newspapers, of course, were full of the incident for
the next few days, and there were many communications
between Washington and Madrid. April 16, the Secretary
of State sent this telegram to Mr. Taylor:

A month having elapsed since you communicated to the Span-
ish government the representations of this government touching
the firing upon the Alliance on the high sea off Cape Maysi while
innocently sailing under the American flag, the President depre-
cates further delay in responding to our just expectations. This
government has given due weight to the serious situation in Spain
and Cuba, but evidence appears so clearly to establish that the
act complained of was indefensible, if not wanton, that delay is
not understood.

This brought expression of regret and explanations that
inasmuch as the Alliance was outside the three-mile limit,
the ofificer in charge of the Spanish guard boat had been
removed to another field and that instructions had been
given that would prevent a repetition of the incident.
After Mr. Gresham's death, Mr. Cleveland replied to the
Spanish government that its explanations were satisfactory,
and the incident was ended.

Despite the fact that the American government had
large interests to conserve in both China and Japan, at the
outbreak of hostilities between these countries each bellig-
erent hastened to place its affairs, in the territory of the
other, in the hands of the American government.


With Mr. Kurino, the Japanese minister, Secretary of
State Gresham had been especially intimate from the be-
ginning. Mr. Kurino had the distinction of securing for
his country from the United States the first favored nation-
al treaty that was accorded it, a treaty which subsequent
administrations endeavored to modify. Secretary of State
Gresham had no hesitancy in advising Mr. Cleveland and
the Senate to accord it to them. With the Chinese min-
ister, Mr. Yang-Yu, Mr. Gresham was on the best of terms,
while Madame Yang-Yu, as I have shown, regarded me as
one of her special friends.

Not a great while before the treaty of peace between
China and Japan I heard my husband tell Senator Piatt of
Connecticut that he feared Russia, France, England, and
Germany, in the event of the Japanese armies crushing
China, might, under the guise of preserving order -in China,
partition that country.

During the settlement of the Chinese-Japanese War,
Col. John W. Foster gave out the report that he was cogni-
zant of the views of, and was acting in harmony with, the
American government. This brought forth the following
inquiry from the Senate, at the instance of Senator Stew-
art of Nevada:

Resolved: That the Secretary of State be directed to inform
the Senate whether John W. Foster has any official relations with
the United States in assisting China in the peace negotiations
with Japan.

The following was the answer:

The Secretary of State, in response to the resolution of the
Senate dated January 4, 1895, has by direction of the President
the honor to say that Mr. John W. Foster, in assisting China
in peace negotiations with Japan, sustains no official or other
relations to the United States.

Respectfully submitted,

W. Q. Gresham.


Mr. Kurino, the Japanese minister, told me his version
of the sudden ending of the war when, after my husband's
death, he and the secretary of the Japanese legation, M.
Matsu, brought me as a gift from the Emperor of Japan a
beautiful piece of tapestry, eleven feet wide by twenty-five
feet long, too large for any ordinary residence, and two
Cloisonne vases. Mr. Kurino told my son and myself that
during the Chinese-Japanese War he met Mr. Gresham
almost daily, and received from him information as to what
was going on in the diplomatic world. This information
he daily cabled to his government. "One day" said Mr.
Kurino, "Secretary Gresham said to me, Japan should
bring the war to a conclusion. If she continues to knock
China to pieces, the powers, England, France, Germany,
and Russia, under the guise of preserving order, will par-
tition China. This information and the advice I trans-
mitted immediately by cable to my government. And you
know what we did. We ended the war almost as abruptly."



TT^VERYTHING was moving along most auspiciously
-' - ' when in April my husband contracted a cold. In
May it developed into pleurisy. After three weeks in bed
the liquid was almost absorbed, and the physicians said
that in a few days he could be out, when, on the 26th of
May, pneumonia suddenly developed, and on the 28th of
May, 1895, the end came.

We went to Chicago for the funeral as it seemed to
me that this should be the burial place. Mr. Cleveland,
the members of the cabinet, the Mexican minister, Mr.
Romero, the Brazilian minister, Mr. Mendosa, and many
Others accompanied us.

After we reached Chicago, it was decided not to inter
my husband's body permanently in that city. Although
Chicago had been our home, and was, therefore, an appro-
priate resting place for my husband's remains, it was urged
on me that his long public service made it fitting that
his body should lie in the capital. We therefore decided
to place it temporarily in a burial vault, and this was done.




The funeral ceremonies in Chicago were elaborate and
impressive. The soldier element was naturally prominent.
I saw that Mr. Cleveland and Mr. Olney took particular
notice of this, for neither of them went to the front in '61,
and I was interested in the effect on them of the many
evidences of my husband's hold on his old army comrades,
both rank and file. All along our route to Chicago the
G. A. R. men had turned out strong. At Chicago, the entire
Illinois Commandery of the military order of the Loyal
Legion, over six hundred, met us. Never before nor since
has the Illinois Commandery of the Loyal Legion as a
body publicly appeared to pay its tribute to any man.
Men who in 1888 had sung, "Good-bye, Old Grover, Good-
bye," men who had deprecated my husband's entering the
cabinet of a man who had employed a substitute in the war,
turned out to show their loyalty to a government whose
integrity they had saved and to whose perpetuity they were
pledged. There were men like General A. C. McClurg,
General McArthur, General Fitzsimmons, General Mc-
Nulta, and General Walter Newberry; Major Blodgett,
the brother of Judge Blodgett; Captain Stewart, post-
office inspector of Whisky Trust fame; Colonel Pearson,
who commanded the regiment in which he had enlisted as
a boy, "Logan's old regiment"; lawyers by the score, like
Colonel Huntington W. Jackson and Colonel James S.
Cooper; judges, like Tuthill, Freeman, and Waterman —
men before whom even the invisible government failed.
Their message of condolence had been acknowledged before
we left Washington, as the most appreciated of all.

It took me a year to make up my mind as to Mr. Gres-
ham's final resting place. Inasmuch as my husband had
given so much of his life to the preservation of the nation,
it seemed to me that he ought to be buried in a National
Cemetery. Many times we had ridden together through
Arlington Cemetery. I decided on Arlington, and accord-
ingly wrote President Cleveland that I thought ArHngton


was the place, and that a certain lot near the Lee mansion,
looking out over the Potomac and the city of Washington,
was the desired spot. Promptly Mr. Cleveland and Secre-
tary of War Lamont answered that the lot was at my dis-
posal. In May, 1896, I started for Washington with Mr.
Gresham's body, and May 15 reached the city and went
directly to Arlington, where we were met by President
Cleveland and the cabinet, and the final interment was

After the ceremony at the cemetery, I went to the
ArHngton Hotel, and soon Mr. Thurber, the President's
secretary, and Sir Julian Pauncefote, the British Ambassa-
dor, and the members of the cabinet called, to pay their
respects. The next day the President sent a carriage for
us to come to Woodley, the Cleveland country place.

Two national conventions were then close at hand.
The question was. Would the silver men dominate not only
one but both? About thirty days before. Secretary of the
Treasury Carlisle had been in Chicago and had made a
sound money speech in which he controverted the coinage
of silver at sixteen to one. Mrs. Carlisle told me that Mr.
Cleveland would soon announce that he would be bound
by the third term tradition and that Mr. Carlisle would be
the candidate of the sound money men for president. The
sound money men had not centered and did not center on
Mr. Carlisle, and Mr. Cleveland made no announcement,
but at that Woodley visit Mr. Cleveland expressed without
reserve the apprehension he felt as to what would be the
effect on the country if the silver men succeeded. I could
not but recall the warning my husband had given him two
years before. He was no longer assuming to dictate. He
expressed his pleasure and astonishment when my son told
him that "Tom" Taggart, John E. Lamb, Senator Voorhees'
law partner, John W. Kern, A. G. Smith, and scores of
others in Indiana and Illinois were sound money men and
could be counted on to do almost anything he desired.

T H E E N D 793

Cleveland then launched into an exposition of the financial
relation of the coinage of silver, at sixteen to one, to gold,
the actual value at that time being about thirty-three to
one, that was illuminating and convincing, but his audience
was limited. Men like Senator Voorhees, who was still
the chairman of the Finance Committee of the Senate, the
men from the South and West, would not go near him.'

I am not saying that Mr. Cleveland contemplated a
third term, but I do say he understood the act of handling
men and public questions. He could not be ignorant of
the possibility of the use of his name as a candidate as a
rallying standard for the sound money men, especially
when suggested by "practical men." Notwithstanding
the public rancor between Grover Cleveland on one side
and Tammany and Senator Hill on the other, there always
existed a certain connection between them. Daniel S.
Lamont was this connecting link. At the time of which I
write the three were in perfect unison. And Grover Cleve-
land was saying, as he said on that occasion, "Tell the
boys they can not win with sixteen to one. The laboring
men and the business men will be against them."

The last time I saw Mr. Cleveland he came to Chicago
to deliver an address before the Union League Club on the
22d of February, igo6. He came to see me and I sat with
him at a dinner. He was in declining health. He was
still strong and cheerful, but he knew^ and he knew that I
knew, although neither of us said so, that his end was not
far off. My own years were numbered, a fact to which I
referred. Again he was most unreserved in his talk. One
woman, after the dinner was over, asked me what Mr.
Cleveland talked about. While no secrecy was enjoined,
it was implied, so I did not enlighten her.

There was another public question in which Secretary
of State Gresham participated that lived after him. That
was the Venezuelan matter. That sense of justice and

1 See Chapter XLV, especially pages 705 and 708.


fairness in Sir Julian Pauncefote, and the discernment of
how to reach it, which was the real reason for the settlement
of the Nicaraguan question, led Mr. Gresham to believe he
could adjust the Venezuelan controversy without friction.
This was also Ambassador Bayard's view, for in this con-
nection and at this time he wrote privately to the vSecretary
of State: "Great Britain has just now her hands very full
in other quarters of the globe. The United States is the
last nation on earth with whom the British people or their
rulers desire to quarrel, and of this I have new proofs every
day in my intercourse with them. The other European
nations are watching each other like pugilists in the ring."
Of Sir Julian Pauncefote, Secretary Gresham wrote to Mr.
Bayard: "While he is a firm supporter of British interests,
he is candid and fights openly and is fair."

After all, it was only a question of boundary. England
had been in South America, in English Guiana, for a hun-
dred years, and is there yet. The dispute as to the bound-
ary, between England and Venezuela, arose in 1887 while
Thomas F. Bayard was Secretary of State. It again be-
came acute in 1894. Realizing the hopelessness of contend-

Online LibraryMatilda GreshamLife of Walter Quintin Gresham, 1832-1895 (Volume 2) → online text (page 29 of 38)